January 2016 News

Pak Detains Masood Azhar, Brother, Many Others; Seals Offices

13 January 2016

Islamabad: Pakistan today detained Jaish- e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother and 'several individuals' belonging to his dreaded outfit, which is suspected to have engineered the Pathankot terror attack, and sealed its offices after India demanded action, linking it to the fate of Foreign Secretary-level talks. Lt Gen (Retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch, Minister for Frontier Regions, confirmed that 'Azhar was arrested'. Azhar was taken in protective custody to probe the Pathankot attack, Baloch was quoted as saying by the Geo TV. Azhar's brother Abdul Rehman Rauf has also been detained, Geo TV said. Officials said Azhar, the dreaded terrorist and two other terrorists who were released from an Indian prison in 1999 in exchange for release of 155 passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane, has been taken into protective custody after raids on several JeM offices. Pakistan has also said it's considering sending a special investigation team to Pathankot as more information would be required to carry forward the process of cooperation with India. The Pakistani action, which was reviewed at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, come as the fate of the FS-level talks scheduled for Friday hung in balance with just two days for Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to go to Islamabad for talks with his counterpart on resuming the bilateral dialogue process. Terrorists belonging to the JeM are believed by India to be behind the Pathankot terror attack on January 2 in which seven security personnel were killed. A PMO statement issued after the meeting today said it noted with satisfaction that as part of Pakistan's commitment to eliminate terrorism from its soil and the expressed national resolve not to allow the territory to be used for acts of terrorism anywhere. It said 'considerable progress has been made in the investigations being carried out against terrorist elements reportedly linked to the Pathankot incident. 'Based on initial investigations in Pakistan, and the information provided, several individuals belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad have been apprehended. The offices of the organisation are also being traced and sealed. Further investigations are underway,' the statement said. In the spirit of the cooperative approach, the statement said, it was also decided that in order to carry the process forward, additional information would be required for which the Government of Pakistan is considering sending a SIT to Pathankot in consultation with Government of India. 'The meeting reiterated that in line with our decision to counter and completely eliminate terrorism, Pakistan would remain engaged with India on this issue,' the statement said. Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, Director-General ISI Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and other senior officials attended the meeting. Last week India put the ball squarely in Pakistan's court, linking the FS-level talks to Islamabad's 'prompt and decisive' action in the Pathankot terror attack for which it has provided 'actionable intelligence'. An official said that close to a dozen militants have been held so far and were being questioned. He refused to give further information like where they have been held or when they could be produced before any court. In the terror attack on Pathankot Air Force base that began on January 2, six militants were also eliminated in an operation that lasted four days. Meanwhile, Pakistan today set up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) comprising security and military officials to probe whether any Pakistani individual or organisation was involved in the Pathankot terror attack in India. The JIT was set up following an order of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to ensure a thorough and fair probe by Pakistan. According to an official of the Prime Minister's Office, the JIT would be led by Additional IG Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Punjab, Rai Tahir. Other members of the team are Director, Intelligence Bureau (IB) Lahore Azeem Arshad, Additional Inspector General, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Salahuddin Khan, Director, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Lahore, Usman Anwar, Brigadier Noman Saeed, ISI, and Lt Col Irfan Mirza, Military Intelligence (MI). The team will investigate the involvement of any individual or organisation from Pakistan in the Pathankot airbase attack on January 2 in which seven Indian security personnel were killed.